Author Topic: About Japanese manned spacecraft programs  (Read 1867 times)

Offline Pipcard

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 479
  • Liked: 123
  • Likes Given: 99
About Japanese manned spacecraft programs
« on: 11/17/2015 01:46 AM »
During the period in which Japan had a bubble economy, their space program was highly ambitious. There was a project to have a manned mini-shuttle called "HOPE," or "H-II Orbiting Plane," similar to the European Hermes spaceplane. Images of the manned shuttle can be found in the JAXA digital archives. Then, the bubble collapsed, Japan went into economic stagnation (Lost Decade), and budgets were cut. The plan was downsized to a smaller, robotic vehicle known as HOPE-X (eXperimental), which would have been a cargo transport to the space station, but that got cancelled in 2004. It is claimed here that the final nail in the coffin for HOPE-X was a need for spy satellites over North Korea.

In the early 2000s, before the consolidation of Japan's space agencies into JAXA, there was a plan to develop a space capsule known as Fuji. The idea, as expressed in this paper, was to have a disposable space capsule instead of a reusable spaceplane for lower development and operating costs. The minimum system would have been a capsule with high sidewall angle to reduce G-forces, and a full system similar to the configuration of Soyuz. Flights involving lunar free-return trajectories as well as an open-source design. This was also cancelled. According to this person's research, the reason also involved cutting the budget in the face of Japan's economic situation to make room for spy satellites over North Korea. If the manned capsule program was planned in the 1990s instead of the more ambitious mini-shuttle, it could have survived.

In this article from 2002, Hideo Nagasu, who is the "former director of Japan's National Aerospace Laboratory," claims that Japan's post-WWII "pacifist constitution" hindered manned space development "because the reentry technology needed to bring astronauts home safely was too closely linked with intercontinental ballistic missiles." They still managed to launch OREX and HYFLEX, though. The article also claims that Japan became "more interested in human space flight" as a response to North Korea, contrary to what has been claimed previously in this post. The plan for a Japanese experiment module had been there since the 1980s, too (originally as part of Space Station Freedom).

More recently, a proposal to evolve the HTV into a crewed spacecraft was made in the late 2000s, it would have involved a Soyuz-like configuration, with orbital module, re-entry capsule, and service module). But during launch, the re-entry capsule would have been on the top (less mass for the launch escape system to support), and a "rail-and-wheel system" that would have re-arranged it into the Soyuz-like configuration.

In 2012, they announced plans to have either a capsule derived from HTV, or a Dream Chaser-sized mini-spaceplane, by 2022. But they didn't seem to follow through with that.

By this year, the planned HTV-X redesign offers a potential capability to carry a returnable capsule, although that only seems to be for cargo, and it too still remains at the PowerPoint stage.

Will there ever be a manned spacecraft launching from Japan?
« Last Edit: 11/17/2015 02:16 AM by Pipcard »

Offline Eric Hedman

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 980
  • Liked: 320
  • Likes Given: 250
Re: About Japanese manned spacecraft programs
« Reply #1 on: 11/17/2015 02:13 AM »
Not any time soon.  Japan just slipped back into recession.